Fascinating return to the stage for trio
BACK in 2003 I wrote about a forthcoming "farewell appearance" at Newcastle Theatre Royal by Fascinating Aida.
Ha! Evidently the spotlights and the greasepaint proved too fascinating for Dillie Keane and the ladies who make up her music and comedy trio. Or maybe the world of cabaret was just too reluctant to let them go?
Anyway, they are back in the region this month, again telling porkie pies with a 25th anniversary performance marking the fact that they are now “25 and a bit”.
In the world of showbusiness, it seems, you can be whoever and whatever you like. But Fascinating Aida have never short-changed an audience and have, along the way, picked up three Olivier Award nominations and a Perrier Award nomination, signifying their appeal a cross a broad spectrum.
On the (rather ropey) line from Edinburgh, where Fascinating Aida have again been a Festival Fringe attraction, Dillie says: “I never really intended to start a group but it was a little seed that grew into a tree.”
Dillie studied music at Trinity College, Dublin, and then did a three-year acting course at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art.
As the biography puts it, “a burgeoning acting career was hijacked by the extraordinary success of Fascinating Aida”.
It started almost accidentally in a wine bar in London's West End in 1983. “We sang some songs and told some funny stories and I suddenly thought: I can do this and it's fun.
“Then I started writing some songs and they seemed to go down well. We got a couple of gigs and things took off from there.” The earliest line-up of Fascinating Aida was Dillie, Marilyn Cutts and Lizzie Richardson. But Adèle Anderson, who joined in 1984, struck up a fruitful and long-term writing partnership with Dillie, who now refers to her as Dame Adèle.
They are joined on the current tour by Liza Pulman, another old friend and kindred spirit.
How has Fascinating Aida changed over time? “I think I'm more confident about things now,” says Dillie.
She recalls that Fascinating Aida pushed at a few boundaries in the early 1980s with their gently satirical take on the world.
Nowadays, she says, the group are much less scared of seeing bemusement on people's faces before - as is most often the case - the laughter breaks through.
The gigs in Edinburgh, says Dillie, went “extraordinarily well”.
“You get people who come back and you get those who have never seen us before and that mix is terrific.”
I would love to tell you how the group got its name. Dillie says it's really boring but she embarks on a tale that takes us to Mexico before getting lost in the telephone ether.
She does manage to say, however, that this will be her very first trip to Consett Empire and she is really looking forward to it.
On the group's website, she admits: “I've given up trying to give this bloody group up.”
No more farewell or comeback appearances, then, for which the fans will be glad.
See Fascinating Aida at Consett Empire on September 19, 7.30pm. Call (01207) 218 171 or visit www.leisureworksonline.co.uk
See facing page for a chance to win tickets.